Wednesday, July 1, 2015 marked the first official day of the University of Tennessee's partnership with Nike and their departure from Adidas. Nike held an hour-long reveal party at noon on Wednesday, showing off all the new gear for every sport at the university. Most notably, of course, were the five uniforms displayed for the football team.
Nike made some minor tweaks to the "normal" home and away uniforms, most notably with the additions of the checkerboard patterns on the pants and helmet. Where there was once a double stripe down the side of the pants, a single stripe now extends down the length of the leg and fades into a checkerboard at the bottom.
Also seen on the pants is the power T on the hip, which is a nice addition to the look of the uniform. Another change was to the stripe on the regular home and away helmets. The stripe starts out solid orange on the front and then, like the stripe down the side of the pants, fades to a checkerboard pattern on the back of the head.
The addition of the checkerboard onto the uniforms is a nice nod to tradition and actually adds more tradition to the uniform rather than taking anything else away. Other notable minor changes is an orange collar on the white away uniforms and the phrase "My All" on the inside of the collar of every uniform.
But, of course, the main uniform being talked about is the Smokey Grey alternate uniform. The grey is a bit lighter than Adidas's uniforms from two years ago, and Nike's is two-toned with a darker, carbon grey going across the shoulder pads.
Im in my zone I'm feeling it pic.twitter.com/AaJHH7iSB1— Vol Photos (@Vol_Photos) July 1, 2015
The big point of discussion, however, is the helmets for the alternate look. Gone are the traditional white helmets with the orange power T that have been standard for the Vols for decades. When Tennessee wears their new alternate uniforms, they will don a new helmet as well. The new helmet still has the orange power T on it, but instead of the T being on white, it's on grey. And several layers of it.
The Smoky Mountains are incorporated into the helmet's design, fading into a misty background much like any photograph you've seen of the Smoky Mountains. The look has been met with some criticism, but the majority of fans seem to like the look.
Those Smoky Mountains are SOOOOO Nice pic.twitter.com/uOImz6ns66— Vol Photos (@Vol_Photos) July 1, 2015
What did Nike's unveiling tell Vol fans? It showed them that Nike isn't afraid to have some fun, but that tradition is of the utmost importance to them when designing new concepts for UT. Nike appears to understand how seriously Vol fans take their tradition, and they stayed true enough to the traditional look of Tennessee that even the staunchest of traditionalists would have a hard time faulting Nike for what they did. But they were able to add enough flair and newer designs to the uniforms that it didn't look like a rehashing of the same designs of the last few decades.
Fans also learned that Nike is in love with the Smokey Grey concept. Literally every sport showcased on Wednesday has a Smokey Grey look, from women's basketball to track and field. All of them are able to blend the traditional orange with the new color palette without it looking like a Photoshop gone wrong.
This reveal party may not be the last the Vols hear from Nike. So far, Nike has given Tennessee two home uniforms (orange top with white pants and all orange), two away uniforms (white top with orange pants and all white) and an alternate Smokey Grey uniform. But don't be surprised if Nike comes out with some more alterations during the season or directly after the season. They've done it before with other schools, so it's not hard to believe they could do it again.
Nike left a couple things for Vol fans to look for moving forward as well. All the athletes that showed off the uniforms today were wearing generic cleats and shoes, so be on the lookout for details on cleats for the football team or if the basketball team will be wearing Kevin Durant's, LeBron James', or Michael Jordan's brand of Nike shoes this season.
In short, Nike kept true to Tennessee's traditions while still introducing some new concepts. Nike can certainly get "louder" with their designs moving forward, but this introduction was about as good as you can get at this moment. Nike has hit a home run with the Vols so far.